Like many others, I was saddened by the unexpected death of Dr. Leroy Morganti, though I barely knew him. In a recent brief conversation with him at a church event he mentioned his hard feelings toward the Catholic Church, and I invited him to give me a call sometime so we could talk it over. After reading his posthumous column on September 7, I understood the matter to which he was referring, and wished we could have had that conversation, if for no other reason than to help him in the process of forgiveness. "Confession is good for the soul. So is forgiveness, and I'm working on that," he wrote. His honesty was probably therapeutic and necessary to that end.
I would have told him how the Roman Catholic Church has changed over the years since his mother was ostracized because of her second marriage to a divorced man. Back then the annulment process, which would have helped greatly, was very rare and difficult; now it is much more common. The process grapples with two realities: Jesus saying in Scripture that what God has joined man must not divide, and the fact that sometimes divorces are healthy and necessary. In seeking the declaration of nullity, a divorced person is asking the Church to affirm or deny what he/she proposes - that the marriage was not of the sort Jesus describes in Scripture. (For example, we could hardly say that God automatically joins together two immature people forced by parents to marry because of an unplanned pregnancy.)
The annulment process is not perfect, but it is an honest human attempt to take seriously both Scripture and people's experiences. It is not "Catholic divorce," nor is it a declaration that children of an annulled marriage are illegitimate. Until shown otherwise, we assume the validity of all Christian marriages. Church annulments have no legal bearing.
Dr. Morganti had good reason to be resentful over the words and actions of the priest involved. I was embarrassed and sorry, on behalf of all priests, by what Dr. Morganti remembered about the man. At the same time I think, in general, the approach of all clergy, Catholic and Protestant, was much different in the 1950's. Now few of us pound the pulpit as many used to do. (One of my priest friends said that his young grandmother was once called out in front of her Protestant congregation by a pastor who demanded that she publicly renounce her love of dancing.) Ecumenism is prevalent now, so that someone like young Dr. Morganti would not be forbidden, as he was, to attend functions at other churches.
I have no doubt that Dr. Morganti has finally found the healing he sought, since there are no grudges in Heaven. I imagine that he, his mother, her husbands, their wives, all their deceased loved ones, the offending priest, along with millions of others, are holding hands at this moment as they sing together the praises of God's Kingdom.
Rev. Kent Bowlds,
Pastor, Our Lady of Victories
(office, 846-6273, cell 588-5868)